God's Word for Today

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Shephelah ~ The foothills of Israel

First off…I just love this word. Shephelah…pronounced Sha - fā – la. It is the Hebrew word meaning foothills. It sounds wonderfully romantic and it just rolls of the tong. Shephelah…is sounds like a place you want to go and take a pic nic!

In reality is was a very important place geographically speaking during biblical times.

Quote from Faith Lesson on the Promise Land by Ray Vander Laan:

“The foothills of Israel – The Shephelah – served as a buffer zone between the mountains where most of the Israelites lived and the Philistine cities on the coastal plain. Because control of the Shephelah ensured the security and power of the dominate culture many battles between the Philistines and the Israelites took place there. Although the Israelites failed to drive the Philistines out of the Promise Land, God periodically raised up heroes to confront the Philistines in the Shephelah. These heroes also reminded Israel of what God had called his people to accomplish”

One of the things I love about studying God’s word is how it gives me new ideas and concepts, things I had never thought of before, and places those new ideas in the proper contest for me.

This week we are talking about Confronting Evil. There are several examples of how the Israelites were in multiple situations where they were called to confront the evil influences of their times. The Philistines were a common thread of a lot of these conflicts. I am not a huge geography person, in fact I struggle on a good day to remember the difference between my right and left hand. Knowing what direction north is and where all the different cities in the bible are located and why they are geographically important, well at times it just makes my head swim.

But let’s tread water for a bit and see if I can keep my head above the waves long enough to make my point!

The valleys of the Shephelah functioned as a corridor, a barrier and whoever controlled the shephelah controlled the culture. However if we use the symbol of what the shephelah was which was quite often a battleground. It was a place where the Israelites and the Philistines fought most of the biblical battles.

The metaphor that is placed before me this week is this, a Shephelah is the place where God’s values meet the pagan practices of the western culture. Will I, like the Israelites, choose to withdrawal to the safety of the hills or will I choose to engage in the confrontation on the front lines. The Shephelah, the battlefield was the very real geographical barrier between the mountains where the Israelite lived and the coastal area where the Philistines lived.

I have been thinking about this comparison. The Shephelah’ s in my life. The battlefields, the barriers, the confrontations with the world that I face every day. Am I going to run to the hills like the Israelite did so often? (example 1 Samuel 13, the Israelites were so overwhelmed by the numbers of the Philistines that they ran and hid in caves and some even fled back across the Jordan River) Or am I going to stand and confront Goliath (this very familiar conflict did in fact take place in the Shephelah) like David did?

How many times do we see in the Old Testament that rather that being a flavoring influence to the surrounding culture the Israelites absorbed the practices of the pagan cultures around them. They adopted their religious practices, setting up alters to false gods, they married outside of their faith and allowed the culture to influence them in so many ways.

All week we have been studying the circumstance and the various battles that took place in the Shephelah.

One question that kept being addressed in many different ways was:

Where is my Shephelah?

How about every time I walk out my front door. The secular world is a powerful influence. I have to admit that over the years I have been successful in eliminating many of the unwholesome influences that surround me. However there are still many thing that I struggle with. The worlds tells me that all things are acceptable. The world wants the concept of everything goes to be so attractive that we are all willing to allow our better judgment take a back seat instead of stepping out and standing up for what God tells us is the moral or the right thing to do!

How do I spend my time? How do I spend my money? These are very good indicators of where my priorities are.

Have I got it all figure out…that would be a big fat NO! Just the other day I had to readjust myself. I had gotten absorbed in a new television show. I am a huge science fiction fan and there was a particular show that I had been seeing the previews for on one of the cable channels that I watch. I was looking forward to seeing the premier episode with great expectation. The first show was very good and I was excited about the next show, then things began to change. Very quickly it became apparent that the show was going in a direction that glorified certain lifestyles and certain beliefs that I know to be against what God would have me do. I can share that I was conflicted. The worldly side of me told me that it was ONLY a television show. What can it possibly hurt to watch a hour long science fiction series? I mean after all how can I stop watching something mid season…I needed to know what happened next didn’t I?

I was having a real internal dialog with myself? What’s the harm? But here is the real plumb line. If I would not let my DD watch this show then why was I watching it. Convicted yet again. I had to set aside my desire to know what happen next in favor of doing what I knew was right in the eyes of God! Not to mention that the reality is that once you view something unwholesome or immoral it becomes very difficult to remove those images from your memory banks. That’s why we have a hard time not craning around to look at a wreck on the side of the road. Our baser human desires take over and we are drawn to the sinful nature.

But the good news is that being a grown woman I have the control to turn the television off, to make choices and to choose to no longer allow certain images, behaviors or whatever it may be to influence my thoughts, my action or my faith walk.

We may have started out studying about the foothills in ancient bible times but the wonderful thing about God’s Holy word is that is really is living and active. The comparison of the battlefield thousands of years ago is just as relevant for us today when we put one foot outside our front door.

Where are your front lines of the battlefield in today's culture?

Where is your Shephelah?



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